Directed by: Peter Hurd
Cast: Brad Dourif, Ross Destiche, Jenna Enemy
B-movie absurdity? Astounding story concepts? Subtle but superb performances? The Control Group has it all, and much more.
Let it be known that I really dig a lot of bad movies. And movies can be bad for a lot of different reasons. The Control Group is – interestingly enough – bad, and not so bad. There’s plenty of ugly over-acting and wretched dialogue, and the plot itself becomes terribly convoluted as the flick unravels, but that over-acting garnered a number of hearty laughs, and that plot isn’t terrible, per se, it’s actually just far too big for the budget of the picture. It’s over ambitious. It’s the kind of story that could be told in beautiful fashion with a good $5-$10 million budget and a top notch screenwriter to tighten up the cringe-worthy dialogue and blurred lines that multiply the deeper into the film we get.
As for the story itself, which follows a group of 20-somethings trapped in an abandoned mental ward, it’s basically about manipulation and study… for a while. The movie takes a somewhat speedy turn in the direction of the supernatural and that’s when the train car starts to slip from the tracks. There are some great ideas here, but they aren’t able to breathe too well due to the fiscal limitations of the production. Once again, this story simply grows far too big for its own britches.
But there are a few gems to be taken away from the picture, and all three of those gems come in the form of impressive performances that don’t quite fit into things because they’re simply too polished and spirited. First, Brad Dourif shines. Dourif, at this point, is so seasoned he’d probably have to try very hard to turn in a mediocre showing. But we’re not too familiar with virtual unknowns Ross Destiche and Emily Soto; we may end up knowing these two well. Destiche fronts the film. He’s a young, handsome in an unorthodox way, kid who boasts big confidence and really delivers with passion. There’s no doubt he was aware of the size of the production, but it doesn’t hinder his performance in the least, and that’s commendable. If this kid chooses to stick with this business, he really could develop into a stellar talent one day. And Soto is still a baby herself, and though she doesn’t have a large part in the film, she too brings good energy and dedication to the project. It should be interesting to see where her career heads from here.
When all is said and done what you’ve got in The Control Group is a film that deserved a better setup. It deserved a deeper behind-the-scenes talent pool, and it deserved the kind of budget needed to tell a story that is large in scope. The Control Group doesn’t benefit from any of those things, but it isn’t hard to appreciate the effort invested. Director Peter Hurd certainly has potential, but if he’s going to create the kinds of films that he likely aspires to create, he’s going to have to find a way to get some very serious investors involved. This kid deserves a chance to work under optimum conditions, and we as fans deserve a chance to see what he’s capable of when his hands aren’t tied quite so tightly.